The following is a sample of the typical modules that we offer as at the date of publication but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Due to the passage of time between commencement of the course and subsequent years of the course, modules may change due to developments in the curriculum and the module information in this prospectus is provided for indicative purposes only.
Reasoning, Argument, and Logic
This module introduces a series of key skills relevant to the aims and methods of philosophical inquiry. It is designed to (a) help students understand the nature and structure of arguments, (b) acquire critical tools for assessing the arguments of others, (c) improve their ability to present their own reasoning in a clear and rigorous manner, particularly in essays, and (d) supply the basic minimum knowledge of logic and its technical vocabulary which every philosophy student requires.
Mind, Knowledge, and Ethics
This module aims to introduce students to some of the major issues within contemporary philosophy of mind. We will examine four topics and the interactions between them:
- Mental Causation
- The Status of Physicalism
Metaphysics, Science, and Language
The module will cover topics from each of Metaphysics, Epistemology and the philosophy of science, and the philosophy of language. Indicative questions include: metaphysics – why is there something rather than nothing? Does it make sense to talk of a telos, or purpose, to the universe? Is the universe deterministic, or is there chance; philosophy of science – is science the guide to all of reality? Is there a scientific method; philosophy of language – what is truth? Is truth relative? Does language create reality?
This module will explore the thought about religion of a few key philosophical thinkers chosen from more than one tradition. Representative thinkers might include, but are not limited to, atheists such as Feuerbach and Nietzsche, Buddhists such as Śāntideva and Dōgen, Christians such as Augustine, Pascal and Weil, Hindus such as the writers of the Upanisads and Shankara, Jews such as Spinoza and Buber, Muslims such as Mulla Sadra and Nasr, and Taoists such as Zhuangzi; in some years, more contemporary thinkers might be chosen. The texts will be used to raise issues of wider philosophical significance, such as the variety of conceptions of ultimate reality; goals for the spiritual life; the nature of religious experience; the relations of religion and morality; explanations of suffering and evil; human nature and continuing existence after death; and problems of religious diversity. While such content may vary from year to year, each year will focus on a few key thinkers and themes.
Philosophy and the Contemporary World
This module will provide students with the resources necessary to critically understand and constructively engage with a variety of topical practical, social, and political issues and phenomena. These include a range of psychological phenomena of relevance to both university environments and social life, and large-scale political and cultural developments that invite moral and intellectual concern. An overt aim of the module is to provide students with the intellectual skills necessary to undertake their duties as responsible citizens in a democratic society within a multicultural and multiracial world.
History of Philosophy: Ancient to Modern
Through considering some of the greatest thinkers who have ever lived, students on this module will become familiar with some of the main philosophical ideas which have shaped philosophy. They will understand how and why these ideas arose and developed across the history of philosophy in response to wider contexts and movements. The historical scope runs from the ancient to the modern period. Typical figures might include: Plato, Aristotle, Ibn-Tufayl, Ibn-Rushd, Montaigne, Locke, Wollstonecraft, Marx, Gandhi, Fanon, Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Murdoch. Typical topics might include: ancient Greek conceptions of the good life, reason and tradition in classical Islamic philosophy, medieval philosophy, existentialism, and Afro-Caribbean philosophy.
Gender, Justice, and Society
Proposed topics include: what is justice? What is gender justice? What would a just organization of labour and resources look like? How does the gendered distribution of labour and resources affect this? What is autonomy? How does gender affect the way we understand autonomy? What is culture, and why does it matter? How should the state respond to cultural differences? What should feminists say about this? Is violence justified? How can we make sense of gender-based violence? Should there be a distinction between the public and the private? Does it make sense to think of our personal lives as ‘political’?
This module explores Greek and Roman art in detail and it aims is to give students a broad overview of visual material from classical antiquity, whilst concentrating on a cross-section of the most famous and talked about objects and monuments of Greek and Roman culture. More specifically, it offers an introduction to sculpture in the public and private sphere, vase-painting, numismatics, architecture and urban structures from 8th century BC Greece to the 4th century AD Rome. The module covers the Greek world in Autumn and the Roman world in Spring. Rather than proceeding chronologically, the material is organised by themes and media, starting with topography, then sculpture, vase painting etc. This is meant to give students a grasp of formal and stylistic developments within each of these media through the centuries, along with the meanings attached to them.
Interpreting Ancient Literature
This module will introduce students to the interpretation of ancient literary texts (in translation) as sources for ancient culture, by focusing on a representative range of texts and themes. The module will address issues such as ancient performance-contexts and audiences, the workings of genres, analysis of rhetoric and literary style, representations of gender and sexuality, study of classical reception, and how to compare translations. The focus will be on Greek texts in autumn and Latin texts in spring.
Independent Second-Year Project (Classics)
This module is your opportunity to expand your knowledge of the Classical world in an area which interests you, and to experiment with a method of communicating that knowledge which is different from the usual assessment practices of essay-writing, exam-writing and seminar -presentation. You might undertake research that leads to the construction of a database, or the reconstruction of a Greco-Roman artefact. You can select a communication method tailored to a future career, e.g. by constructing a teaching plan and testing it in a school, by writing in a journalistic style, or by designing a museum exhibit. You might choose to experiment with making a video or a website. A supporting portfolio documenting your research forms part of the assessment. For this module you will have a combination of lectures, seminars, computing training and workshops.
This module is designed to develop your skills of research, analysis and written presentation as preparation for your third year dissertation. You will write a 4,500-5,000 word essay and give an oral presentation on one of a range of worksheet topics, each focusing on a single piece of ancient source material. You will be provided with a topic for investigation, starter bibliography and tips on how to approach the question. The questions will suggest a range of possible approaches, from evaluation of historical source material to exploration of literary effects, relationships with other material, discussion of context or reception. For this module you will have a mixture of lectures and four two-hour seminars over a period of 10 weeks.
This module is a survey course in social philosophy. The module addresses issues in social metaphysics and social epistemology. We will examine the metaphysics of social kinds and explore different accounts of social kinds that have been offered. We will also examine how the fact that we are situated in a social world can affect what we can or cannot know or understand about ourselves, each other, and the social world itself. We will also address ethical and/or political issues that arise once we take account of social metaphysics and social epistemology. In particular, we might consider whether there are special kinds of injustices that arise du to our social reality. What is epistemic injustice and how does it relate to social injustice? How do certain privileged groups structure the social world that create and maintain privilege and patterns of ignorance that perpetuate that privilege? What are some obligations that we have given metaphysical and epistemological concerns we have explored? Topics can include how to do philosophy responsibly; sexism, racism (including everyday sexism/racism); arguments for and against affirmative action.
The module begins with an exploration of various theories of reference and meaning, paying particular attention to the classic theories of singular terms (including Frege, Russell, and Kripke). We then turn our attention to pragmatics, and we cover Grice's theory of implicature and Searle's theory of speech acts. In the final part of this module, we assess various problems in philosophy of language and logic, primarily having to do with the interactions between semantics and pragmatics and with the roles of context in the theory of communication.
This module combines consideration of the political philosophy of Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and J.S. Mill with related themes in contemporary debates. The module is designed to introduce you to each of the thinkers and then to consider how related issues are treated by contemporary writers. You’ll have a weekly two hour lecture and one hour seminar.
Mind and Consciousness
This module aims to introduce students to some of the major issues within contemporary philosophy of mind. We will examine four topics and the interactions between them:
- Mental Causation
- The Status of Physicalism
History of Philosophy
The module involves the study of one or more texts by one or more influential pre-twenty-first century philosophers. The module will proceed via a close reading of the texts set and also draw on additional material by scholars, background material, and influential responses. For the 2015–16 session, the philosopher selected for study in this module is the 18th century philosopher David Hume, arguably the greatest, and undeniably one of the most influential, of all British philosophers. We focus on some of Hume’s most striking and influential contributions to philosophical topics (in the theory of knowledge, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind), including induction, causation, scepticism, and the implications of empiricism in general. The principal text is Hume’s short work An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (also known as his ‘First Enquiry’), supplemented with some passages from Hume’s other writings. Although the focus is on Hume’s philosophy, the module will include comparison of his views with those of some of his predecessors and contemporaries, including Locke and Berkeley. In addition, one of the aims of the module is to provide students with knowledge of ways in which Hume’s work has influenced subsequent theorizing in philosophy up to the present day. There is a weekly two hour lecture and one hour seminar.
Knowledge and Justification
This module explores contemporary treatments of issues pertaining to knowledge and the justification of belief. It addresses issues such as the following: the structure of justification and its relation to one's mental states and evidence (foundationalism vs. coherentism; internalism vs.externalism; evidentialism); the justification of induction; the notion of a priori justification; the relation between your evidence and what you know; the natures of perceptual experience and perceptual knowledge; safety and contextualist theories of knowledge; Moore's response to skepticism; testimonial knowledge, "virtue" epistemology and its relation to "reliabilist" epistemology.
We all have opinions about moral matters. But for most of us, our moral opinions are not very well-organized. Indeed, upon reflection we may discover that some of our beliefs about morality are inconsistent. One of the main projects of moral theorizing over the past few hundred years has been the attempt to systematically denominate right and wrong actions. In this module you will examine some of these, including consequentialism, deontology and virtue ethics. Teaching will be via a weekly two hour seminar and one hour lecture.
Being, Becoming and Reality
We look at some fundamental metaphysical questions about the cosmos. A selection of the following topics will be studied:
- Objects: concrete vs. abstract; existence and nothingness
- Sets and mereology
- Properties, Property bearers, Relations
- States of affairs and non-mereological composition
- Modality (including counterfactuals) and possible worlds
- Time, persistence, change, and the non-present
Are there moral fact? What is moral truth? Do psychopaths really understand moral language? These are just some of the questions we'll be asking on this module.
Metaethics isn't anything like normative or applied ethics; rather it is about asking how ethics works. This means we'll be thinking about, amongst other things, moral ontology, moral language, moral psychology and moral reasons. The teaching will be delivered through a mixture of lectures and seminars.
Philosophy of Art
This module aims to promote a deeper understanding of philosophical issues pertaining to art. By the end of the module, you should be able to engage critically with positions and arguments in a wide range of areas within the philosophy of art. These include debates such as those concerning the nature of art, the relationship between art and ethics, and the relationship between art and emotion. Introductory reading (note: this is optional, not required as preparation for the module): Steven M. Cahn and Aaron Meskin, Aesthetics: A Comprehensive Anthology, Blackwell Publishing, 2007.
Sparta dominates much of archaic and classical Greek history, and has figured prominently in the thought and imagination of other western societies from antiquity to the present. This module studies the historical development of Sparta, in both domestic and external affairs, from the seventh to fourth centuries BC. It engages with the central issues that arise in historical study of Sparta: the problematic nature of our evidence; the Spartan social, political and military system; her subordinate populations; relations between Spartans and others both at home and abroad; and the forces behind Sparta's rise and fall as a great power. For this 20-credit module you will have 6 hours of lectures and one 2-hour seminar each fortnight across a ten-week semester; assessment is by a combination of coursework essay and exam.
Mythological images dominate the Greek and Roman world. As media conveying myths they transmit adventurous and exotic narratives and broadcast religious ideologies; they can become devices of self-representation, of power and hierarchies, and of personal reflection. You will trace the workings of mythological images and explore how they are appropriated and emulated in the different areas of Greek and Roman life, and concentrate on what makes up the specific quality of an image in comparison to a text. In the first semester you will pay attention to individual artistic genres such as vase-painting, wall painting, and mosaics. In the second semester, you’ll focus on a set of myths and the ways in which they are handled across a variety of periods and genres. In this year-long module you will have one two-hour class and one one-hour class every week. The module is a special subject, which means it is discussion-led and based on a member of staff's research.
Masculinity and Citizenship in Greece and Rome
In this full-year Special Subject you’ll use literary and historical material to explore the idea of what it was to be a man and an accepted citizen in ancient Greece and Rome. The module explores how good citizens were to behave and what they were expected to look like. You’ll also explore how they represented this citizenship to the rest of the world and how that changed over time. Incorporating elements of gender studies, topics to be covered include homoeroticism and Athenian identity, dress and cultural identity, sexual invective, citizenship and empire, Roman representation in the provinces and women, politics and patronage. You’ll have three hours of seminars weekly. The module is assessed through a combination of coursework essays, formal presentation and exam.
Greek Tragedy: Orestes on Stage
This 10-credit semester-long module focuses on Greek Tragedy in translation, through the examination of one myth – that of the house of Orestes in Aeschylus’ Oresteia, Sophocles’ Electra, Euripides’ Electra and Orestes. These texts contain a number of themes that are typical of tragedy as a whole: inherited guilt, ritual pollution, revenge, kin-killing and the pursuit of suppliants. Furthermore, the course will set tragedy within its broader context, looking at two major areas. The first is the literary context of tragedy; how tragedy was informed by other poetic genres and, in particular, the development of the mythic tradition. Secondly, the module will consider the broader political, social and religious context of Greek tragedy. You will have three hours of lectures and a one-hour seminar every fortnight.
Environmental ethics addresses the issue of how human beings should interact with the non-human natural world. This module will cover a range of topics from contemporary philosophical literature on environmental ethics. Representative topics include: the scope of moral concern (i.e. whether and how our moral theory should concern itself with animals, plants, rocks, ecosystems); whether nature is intrinsically valuable, or whether it possesses value only by being valuable to us; whether it is reasonable to search for just one overarching ‘environmental ethic’ (i.e. the debate between monism and pluralism in ethics); the metaphysics, ethics and politics of the ‘deep ecology’ movement; whether there is any connection between the twin oppressions of women and nature (as ecofeminists claim); the ethics of zoos; the nature of sustainability; ethical issues relating to climate change; the ethics of restoring nature after it has been damaged by human development; whether there are any distinct environmental virtues.
Free Will and Action
This module involves the study of a set of related issues concerning the nature and explanation of action and the requirements for free action and free will. Questions to be discussed are likely to include all or most of the following: What would it take for an action to be free (or an exercise of ‘free will’) in a sense that would make it an action for which we are morally responsible? Is there is any way in which our actions could be free in the relevant sense, whether or not determinism is true? How do actions differ from bodily movements that are not actions? Actions are typically (perhaps always) done for reasons, but what exactly is the relation between the reasons and the actions? Do the reasons cause the corresponding actions – and if they do, can this be the same kind of causation as is involved in ordinary ‘mechanistic’ causal explanation? And what about the fact that at least some of our actions seem to have purely physical causes? If they do, doesn’t this make any ‘mental causes’ of those actions redundant? What is the connection between intentional or voluntary action and rational action? In particular, it seems that we sometimes intentionally and voluntarily do things that we ourselves regard as irrational – but how is such ‘weakness of will’ possible?
Students will be introduced to the thought of Karl Marx thematically via texts selected from the Marx canon. Marxian themes considered will include: Alienation, The Materialist Conception of History, Ideology and The Labour Theory of Value. Gaining an overview of Marx's attempt to synthesise German philosophy, French political theory, and British economics will be an important objective for the course.
This module investigates different kinds of contemporary logic, as well as their uses in philosophy. We will investigate the syntax and semantics of various logics, including first order logic, modal logics, and three-valued logics, as well as ways to apply formal techniques from these logics to philosophical topics such as possibility and necessity, vagueness, and the Liar paradox. We’ll cover ways to reason and construct proofs using the logics we study, and also ways to reason about them. We’ll look at proofs regarding the limits of formal logic, including proofs of soundness, completeness, and decidability.
This module will take a detailed look at one of the main topics of contemporary analytical political philosophy: the theory of distributive justice. This theory attempts to specify abstractly the conditions under which a distribution of benefits and burdens amongst a group of persons would be just. You will consider challenges to the legitimacy of any redistributive principle, and attempts to accommodate values such as responsibility and choice in different patterns of distribution. You’ll have a two hour lecture and one hour seminar each week.
The module will focus on a critical examination of core aspects of Buddhist thinking, with emphasis on some of its basic psychological, spiritual, and metaphysical conceptions. These include, in particular: the origin and nature of suffering, the no-self thesis, enlightenment, consciousness, experiential knowing, and the doctrine of Emptiness ( the lack of inherent nature in all things and impermanence).
Dissertation in Philosophy
The aim of this module is to provide students with an opportunity to write an 8,000 word dissertation on a philosophical topic, the precise subject of which is by agreement with the supervisor. At the completion of the module you will have had an opportunity to work independently, though with the advice of a supervisor.
Metaphysics and Language: Quine, Kripke and Lewis
The module involves the study of Naming and Necessity, a seminal text in the philosophy of language, philosophical logic and metaphysics of one of the most influential philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century: Saul Kripke. His work is generally considered the starting point of a twentieth century revolution in the philosophy of language and metaphysics, overturning the consensus established through the writings of Frege and Russell on reference and naming, and inaugurating a new era of analytical metaphysics, central to which is the acknowledgement of necessary a posteriori truths and a division between essential and accidental properties of individuals and kinds. The course will proceed via a close reading of Naming and Necessity, and also draw on additional material by Kripke, background material and some influential responses.
Philosophy of Criminal Law
There is perhaps no more vivid example of the exercise of state power over individuals than through the institution of criminal law. The criminal law raises a host of important philosophical questions, such as these: Is there a general obligation to obey the law? If so, what is the basis for this obligation? What sorts of acts should be criminalised, and why? What does it mean for someone to be responsible for a crime, or for the state to hold someone responsible? Is criminal punishment justified? If so, why? Is the state ever justified in imposing legal restrictions on offenders even after they have completed their punishment? Readings will include seminal works by historical figures such as Bentham, Mill, and Kant, as well as prominent work by more contemporary philosophers such as Hart, Hampton, Duff, and others. All reading assignments for this module are accessible to students with no training in criminal law.
This module will teach students how to communicate philosophy through a variety of different mediums, assessing them in each. We will look at how philosophy can be communicated through legal documentation, press releases, handouts, lesson plans, webpages, funding bids and posters (with optional presentations). A number of the sessions will be delivered by professionals from outside the University, with support from the module convener. Seminars will be used to develop each of the items for assessment. Students will be invited to draw upon their prior philosophical learning to generate their assessments, except in the case of handout where they will be set a specific philosophical task and asked to complete some (very basic) independent research.
If you and another person had your brains swapped, would you have swapped bodies? Or should we say that you still exist in your old body, only now your memories, beliefs, personality traits, etc. are different? Would you survive teleportation? What if teleporting worked by recording your body state, destroying your body, and then creating a copy of it elsewhere? Would this copy be morally responsible for your crimes? What if the teleporter created two copies? These puzzles raise the issue of what your continued existence consists of - are you essentially a brain, a soul, a body, a set of mental states, or something else? This is the issue we will examine in this course. We will also examine the moral implications of personal identity.
Philosophy of Science
What is science? Is there a scientific method, and if so, what is it? Can science tell us what the world is really like? Is it the only way to know what the world is really like? Does science progress? What is a "paradigm" and when/how does it "shift"? Is science "socially constructed"? Can a sociological study of the practice of science tell us anything about the nature of science? Is science "value-neutral"? Should we "save society from science"? What are "the science wars" and who won?
These are some of the questions we will explore in this module. We will start with the positivism-empiricism of the early 20th century and culminate with the postmodernism relativism of the late-20th century and its aftermath. Readings will include seminal works by Ayer, Hempel, Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, Feyeraband, Bloor, and Laudan.